Tim Lord was just out doing what he normally does in his free time — walking the streets of Cortland, playing Pokémon Go.
Lord, who said he walks more than 60 miles a week playing the game, ran into Pokémon buddy Kelley Thomsen Sunday night in front of city hall. They talked for a while about Pokémon stuff, then Thomsen headed one way, toward Courthouse Park, and Lord the other, toward the post office on Main Street.
But after Lord turned the corner and started walking past NBT bank, a black Cadillac SUV slowed and stopped on the opposite side of Main Street. The driver rolled down the window and yelled to Lord, asking him if this was Cortland or Homer.
Lord yelled back that this was Cortland, not Homer.
“And the guy says ‘Oh crap, we were supposed to be in Homer an hour and a half ago,’” Lord said.
The SUV did a U-turn on Main Street and pulled up in front of Lord so it was facing the wrong way. Then window rolled down, and Lord was staring at Ace Frehley, the legendary guitarist of KISS — a.k.a. The Spaceman, the guy who once wielded guitars that belched smoke and shot fireworks.
Lord, 55, being a KISS fan from when he was maybe 14 or 15 back in the ‘70s, immediately knew who he was, there in the flesh, asking him how to get to the Center of the Arts in Homer.
But Lord was so “starstruck,” he said, he basically gibbered in response. Frehley told him to just get in the SUV and show them. So he did, and the SUV roared off.
Frehley was lost, and he was late. Really, really late. The show — his show, the last on his most recent solo tour — was supposed to start at 8 p.m., but it was 9:54 when they picked him up on Main Street, Lord said.
That was the beginning of a terrifying high-speed ride from Cortland to Homer that Lord wasn’t sure any of them would survive. He imagined the next day’s headline: “Ace Frehley killed in car accident.”
“We made it to the venue in less than three minutes,” said Lord. “I kid you not.”
The driver, whom Lord now thinks might have also been the drummer for the gig, “was a complete idiot, I’m sorry to say,” and drove over a traffic island at one point and nearly hit a traffic sign at another.
“He was panicking trying to get to the venue,” he said. The panic translated into speed on Homer Avenue.
“This guy was literally flying 85 miles an hour to get to the concert,” he said. “I hope this guy doesn’t drive him regularly.”
Frehley, however, was cool as a cucumber.
“I think the guy’s probably the nicest guy I ever met,” Lord said. “He’s just the most mellow guy.”
When they got to Center for the Arts, Frehley wanted to take him up on stage to thank him, Lord said.
But Lord — much to his own shock afterward — turned him down. Instead he told Frehley he needed to get home to put his granddaughter to bed.
Turns out, by the time he got back to Cortland (he had to call his stepson to come get him), his wife had already put her to bed.
“My wife said, ‘You idiot, you should have texted me and done the show. I would have understood,’” he said. “I could have listened to the concert. I could have gone backstage and everything. But I turned him down. It’s not every day you get picked up by a rock and roll legend.”
He did, however, manage to take some shots of Frehley inside the SUV. He also said Frehley predicted a KISS farewell tour for 2020 or 2021 — something that hasn’t been officially announced.
Ty Marshal, executive director for the Center of the Arts, confirmed that Frehley was really late for the show, which, he said “was a first for us really because most of our artists are really schedule-oriented.”
“But when you invite a rock god to Homer, New York you might expect some of these things,” Marshal said.
The Homer show was also the last on Frehley’s tour. Marshal said Frehley was coming from Poughkeepsie, where he had played the previous night.
“When he did arrive, you certainly did feel his energy,” he said.
Marshal said a few concertgoers were a little upset that Frehley was so late, but that he made up for it with intensity.
“He put on a great show,” he said. “He’s a rock god, so they just have a great quality.”
Marshal laughed when learning about how Lord directed Frehley to the show.
“I think we owe a debt of gratitude to this gentleman for ensuring that Ace was able to get to the venue,” he said.
Lord was so overwhelmed by the whole experience that he forgot to ask Frehley for the most obvious common thing a super-fan always ask for.
“I didn’t get an autograph or anything I was so nervous,” he said. “My brain wasn’t thinking or anything. It was just like an out of body experience. It was just crazy.”